Public Help Sought in Protection of Spinner Dolphins

February 13, 2014, 4:13 PM HST · Updated February 14, 6:06 AM
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File photo by Vanessa Wolf.

File photo by Vanessa Wolf.

By Maui Now Staff

A public advisory was issued today, reminding ocean and beach goers to keep the recommended distance of 150-feet when observing dolphins in the wild.

“It is tempting to approach and interact with these animals; however, research has shown that these interactions can interfere with their natural behavior and could have population-wide effects,” said DLNR chair William Aila, Jr. in a statement.

In a joint press release issued by the Hawai‘i Department of Land and Natural Resources and NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service, officials note that Hawaiian spinner dolphins move near shore into bays and coves to rest, care for their young, and avoid predators; and then move offshore at night to feed.

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“During this time it is important not to disturb them as these activities are critical to their survival,” the announcement said.

NOAA Fisheries Regional Administrator Michael Tosatto also commented saying, “Close interactions with the dolphins are not only potentially harmful to them, but can lead to harassment, which is illegal. By following the responsible viewing guidelines, we can limit the impacts our activities may have on the animals.”

Spinner dolphins are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, which prohibits the “take” of marine mammals, with “take” meaning to harass, hunt, capture, or kill — or attempt to harass, hunt, capture, or kill — any marine mammal.

Both agencies encourage ocean users to follow a list of “Dolphin SMART guidelines which include the following: stay at least 150 feet from dolphins; move away cautiously if dolphins show signs of disturbance; always put the engine of a craft in neutral when dolphins are near; refrain from feeding, touching, or swimming with wild dolphins; and teach others about the guidelines.

Violations should be reported to the NOAA Fisheries’ Enforcement Hotline at 1-800-853-1964.

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